Hinamatsuri is the type of show I’d never have dreamt of watching this time last year. Let alone feeling strongly enough about it to actually write something about it on here. It goes to show how my renewed passion for blogging has broadened the media I consume. Between the many likeminded bloggers here on WordPress and Teamfourstar’s recent anime series, I would have never given the show the time of day, let alone enjoy it as much as I have.
Part of the reason I ended up giving Hinamatsuri as much of a chance as I did, is because I didn’t start watching it until the third episode. What the series ends up becoming is really not apparent in the first few episodes, at least not the full extent of it.
So the premise. We start following Yoshifumi Nitta; a seemingly dangerous and powerful Yakuza enforcer, wallowing in his wealth and power in his lavish apartment. Mid boast, a metal egg falls from “somewhere” and bangs him on the head. He decides to ignore the problem, hoping it’ll go away on its own, it doesn’t
The egg contains a young girl called Hina, arriving from some other place/time/dimension, it’s never really specified, but she wields powerful psychic abilities. She uses these abilities to blackmail Nitta into taking care of her by threatening to destroy his precious art collection.
Hina seems like a nightmare, using her powers to bully Nitta into buying her clothes and toys. Not long after though, Nitta realises he can make use of her powers to make his job as a Yakuza much easier. He using her to clear plots of land in minimal time and take out rival gang members in what could have been a bloody gunfight.
Reading that, you would assume that this show would be about Nitta’s rise in the Yakuza through using Hina’s powerful abilities. But it’s really not. After an episode where another psychic girl; Anzu, arrives with the intention of returning with Hina, and her subsequent failure, we are slowly introduced to the show’s wider supporting cast of characters and the show spreads its wings, focusing as much on these side characters as it does the main two.
Anzu herself goes from being a rough little troublemaker to befriending a group of homeless people who show her the benefit of hard work and community. Then there’s Hina’s schoolfriend Hitomi; a sweet girl whose biggest failing is her inability to turn anyone down. She continues to find herself in bizarre situations which eventually result in her taking a night job as a bartender as drunk guy confuses her for the regular bartender and she can’t seemingly say no to anyone.
While the show has a high concept first few episodes, once the main bulk of the cast are introduced, it slows down and becomes much less about psychic powers and crime syndicates. It shifts gears and becomes more more of a situational comedy. Don’t get me wrong, those early episodes are still funny, but they don’t really represent what this show actually is.
Hinamatsuri means “Girl’s Day” in Japan, and a lot of this show’s cast are young girls. Introduced to them one at a time, it’s almost a show about their experience in the world and what it’s like to grow up in this bizarre world the show presents. The other side of this is Nitta’s viewpoint, in which a lot of his stories are allegories for parenthood.
Despite what he says to her, Nitta pretty quickly comes to accept himself as Hina’s father. You could argue that Hina is the perfect exaggerated example of what its like to have a child, before they learn the basics of functioning as a person such as responsibility or basic human empathy.
Hina is a monotone leech of a character, latching onto the other characters around her to do pretty much everything for her. She never seem bothered by anything and mild happiness is the most emotional she ever gets.
While her parasite like tendacies aren’t resitected to Nitta, his experience is the one we’re supposed to draw from, with several times him almost resenting the fact that got stuck with Hina when all of her friends seem to be perfect little children.
In a good half of the episodes, Hina and Nitta are hardly featured and we get entire stories focusing on the likes of Anzu and Hitomi. And it’s during these episodes, further away from the ridiculous situational comedy or bizarre facial reactions from characters that we really see that through the comedy and cynicism, the show has an incredible amount of heart.
The episodes that focus on Anzu show her growing as a young person, learning how to function in the world thanks to the doting adults around her. Turning her from a rebellious troublemaker, to a homeless girl, trying to make ends meet and eventually to a sickeningly sweet, perfect little adopted child.
What Hinamatsuri does brilliantly though, is while it is willing to have these scenes of the girls that are so sweet it threatens to make your heart burst, when they interact with the more cynical and comedic characters, they are called out on how too nice they are. It pokes fun at itself. Depending on which collection of characters are on screen at the same time, they can be played for comedy or genuine feels without changing their personalities at all.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t sweet moments between Nitta and Hina, in which Nitta does feel genuinely proud of Hina for, by her own low standards, makes genuine efforts to do something positive. More often than not though they’re the characters who are played most for laughs and even their sweet moments are short-lived in favour of one of them getting to be the butt of some joke.
Hinamatsuri does have a few dud episodes, and the ending doesn’t feel like a finale at all, rather it begs for a second season. But this is a fantastic show, carried by the fantastic characterisation of all of its cast. I don’t normally “get” Japanese comedy, but there is something about this show that almost feels like it could have western comedic sensibilities.
It’s a series of little moments that builds its characters incredibly clearly, allowing for both its comedic and heartfelt moments to work all the better without the high stakes action that it seemed like it would have at the beginning. It’s a great comedy show, one I am surprised I found myself writing about. I’d recommend it to anyone reading this and hope that we can get another series in the future.